Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Balkan Tensions in Bosnia

Among the elections immediately ahead of us is the one in Bosnia on October 1st.

So far, the election campaign has been rather divisive, with old nationalist slogans coming back, and the race to some extent being a race to catch the nationalist vote in each of the three major population groups.

There is a risk of the election setting Bosnia back.

There are numerous reasons for this development.

One is the renewed dispute over basic constitutional issues triggered by parts of the debate surrounding the efforts to modify and modernize the Dayton constitution. Suddenly, the ultimate demands that were overcome by the compromise of Dayton are back on the table.

A second reason is some new relevation of what happened during the war, in this case videos showing senior Bosnian Muslim commanders being involved in ordering atrocities against the Serb population.

And a thir is the disintegration tendencies that have come to force with the independence of Montenegro as well as the ongoing debates about the possible independence of Kosovo.

Now, the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik has accelerated his talk of the eventual independence of the Serb part of Bosnia.

Long a favourite of the international community, not the least Washington, Dodik is suddenly on a collission course with the views of the outside world. But his aim is very clearly to win votes in the October 1st elections.

He recently said that an independence referendum cannot be avoided because Bosnia is untenable as a single state. Referring to ongoing talks on Kosovo province, Dodik said the independence of Kosovo would intensify Bosnian Serbs' wishes for secession, saying that this option had the support of 99 % of the Serbs of Bosnia.

This talk is, to put it very mildly, unhelpful. Wipping up nationalist passions is always possible, and the Balkans is going through a sensitive period, but it is no way to take responsibility for the future.